SmokeLong Quarterly
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Smoking With Amy Denham
by Nancy Stebbins

Photo by Karrah Kobus
Art by Karrah Kobus
Both of the moms in the story seem to love Louis and want the best for him, but their perspectives are so different. His bio mother's attitude is clearly colored by her husband's betrayal. It's a bit harder for me to grasp where Becky's attitude is coming from. What were your thoughts as you wrote this character?

I think Becky is very noncommittal about the morality of things. She isn't malignant, but she's more easygoing in her approach to right and wrong. The biological mother is doling out the conventional advice: don't make out in the church, don't cheat on your girlfriend. But Becky is more self-determined in her actions. She has no apparent qualms about being a "homewrecker." She's like, life happens.

But the biological mother isn't a complete Judgy McJudgerson either. She's forgiving. She makes footie pajamas for the Other Woman. I've witnessed a few situations like that in my life: a man's several baby mamas holding it together and being nice to the other ladies and their kids. It's like, in practice, there are very few pure Madonnas or one-note whores.

The death of the sister weighs on the mother. It seems that the event has come to symbolize so much. Does she feel that the marriage might have survived if the sister had?

That is a completely feasible interpretation, but I actually hadn't thought of it! The mother definitely has a lot of what-ifs over the sister's death. But my thoughts on its significance, especially in the ending line, were a little darker.

The mother herself does not seem the heartbreaking type. But at the same time, she almost envies the carelessness with which Becky can deal in other people's emotions. The mother has been on the crappy end of heartbreak before, and at the end, she sees the effect it's having on her own son. But she would still rather her daughter be like Becky than like her. Would rather her daughter be the maybe-hurtful one than the one getting hurt. That's what I was thinking, anyway.

I noticed that both women were written with sympathy and respect, and I really admired that, especially when women are often portrayed as being rivals and vicious to each other.

Yep. Such a lot of sexist hogwash. The world does not need another depiction of two weepy ladies ripping each other's hair out. I mean, the mother did feel hatred toward Becky in the beginning, I guess, but she got over it. People adjust.

What are you reading right now?

I've been skimming an American lit textbook of my dad's published in 1969. The last story I read was Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River." I'm wishing I hadn't sold my American Lit Norton Anthology back to the bookstore after freshman year of college.

Read Moms' Advice.

Karrah Kobus is a conceptual portrait artist and wedding photographer from Minneapolis, MN. Karrah stumbled upon the magic of photography while studying for an anthropology course—she came across a photo created by Rosie Hardy and knew immediately that she was meant to be a photographer also. With her budding career taking her across America and to Mexico and Canada, it has been an adventurous two years for Karrah. She's driven across the country to meet perfect strangers and bathe in waterfalls after covering herself in mud. She's spent countless nights, mornings and afternoons running around aimlessly and just because she had her camera; everything was, and always will be, okay. Sometimes she feels like photographers have uncovered a special secret. A crazy, amazing, and beautiful secret. The key to truly living. And all she wants is to be alive.

Issue Thirty-Eight (December 17, 2012): Call Me Your Unbroken by Chuck Augello «» Slow Dance by Andrea Danowski «» Moms' Advice by Amy Denham «» Crushed Ice by Gary Fincke «» Second Runner-Up by Faith Gardner «» The Fear of Something Happening by Nick Harmon «» Christopher by Annie Hartnett «» Messing with Texas by Anderson Holderness «» Exercise in Translation by Naira Kuzmich «» Boy Cyclops by Helen McClory «» We Were Always Laughing by Mark O'Neil «» The Speed of the Sound by Patty Petelin «» The Earth Drowns Us by Brenda Peynado «» Shit To Do with a Wedding Dress by Angela Readman «» The Invitation by Amy Scharmann «» The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper by Linda Simoni-Wastila «» Dark Times by Matthew Smart «» Parameters of a Kingdom by Laurie Saurborn Young «» Interviews: Chuck Augello «» Andrea Danowski «» Amy Denham «» Gary Fincke «» Faith Gardner «» Nick Harmon «» Annie Hartnett «» Anderson Holderness «» Naira Kuzmich «» Helen McClory «» Mark O'Neil «» Patty Petelin «» Brenda Peynado «» Angela Readman «» Amy Scharmann «» Linda Simoni-Wastila «» Matthew Smart «» Laurie Saurborn Young «» Cover Art by Josh George «» Letter From the Editor
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